By Jite Eriabie
Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea have released a Panama-flagged oil tanker and its 22 Indian crew members which they had hijacked off Benin last week, the ship’s manager Anglo-Eastern has confirmed.
The company said in an emailed statement on Monday that the MT Marine Express is now back under command of its Captain and crew.
All crew members are reported safe and the cargo is intact.
“Full control of the vessel was resumed at approximately 04:00 Singapore time today. All crew members are reported to be safe and well, and the cargo of 13,500 tons of gasoline remains on board,” the statement reads.
The MT Marine Express was hijacked by pirates on February 1 at an anchorage off Cotonou, Benin.
“A full investigation will be carried out into the hijacking of the vessel and Anglo-Eastern wishes to express its gratitude to the captain and crew of the “Marine Express” and their families for their courage and fortitude in dealing with this difficult situation over the past few days, as well as to all of the authorities and agencies involved.
“All families of the crew members on board the “Marine Express” have been advised of the situation,” the statement concludes.
Anglo-Eastern would not comment on matters regarding ransom paid for the ship and crew’s release.
Meanwhile, India has thanked the governments of Nigeria and Benin for their help and support in locating the ship, which went missing with 22 Indians on board.
India’s External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, who on Monday, sought the assistance of the Nigerian Government in recovering the ship, shared the news of the release on her Twitter handle, @SushmaSwaraj.
“I am happy to inform that Merchant Ship Marine Express with 22 Indian nationals on board has been released,” she tweeted.
In a later tweet, the Minister further thanked the governments of Nigeria and Benin for their help and support.
The Minister had earlier said that she spoke with Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who “promised all help and assistance in locating the missing ship”.
She added that a helpline was also set up.
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